Over the last few weeks the program Dateline on NBC has run a series focusing on teens and children asking the question, “What will they do?” The producers hid cameras and placed the youth in three different scenarios. The first scenario was to see if children who had been taught not to speak to strangers or go with them could be lured into an ice cream truck. The second was to see if teens would get into a car with a driver they knew had been drinking. And finally, the last one was to see if teens taking a test would be honest or cheat if given the opportunity to do so. You know what the results were? Nearly every single one of them gave in. The kids who knew better than to talk to strangers went against their conscience (you could see the hesitation and conflict taking place inside some of them by their expressions) and went inside the ice cream truck to get the free ice cream the stranger promised. Even the reporter’s own son gave in. Nearly all of the teens got in the car with the drunk driver…and many of them had even lost loved ones who made the exact same choice. One girl as she sat in the front seat (and even took off her seat belt as they were about to leave) said, “My mom would kill me if she knew I was doing this.” And most of the students jumped at the opportunity to cheat when the teacher left the room and they saw another teen (the paid actor) pull out her cell phone and start cheating.
In the drinking and driving scenario there was one group of teens that refused to get in the car. They made the wise decision all thanks to one girl who resisted. She did not feel good about getting in the car and she followed her conscience. She told the “drunk” driver (who was really an actor pretending to be drunk), “It’s such a nice day, I think I’ll walk.” Once she made that decision the other two teens breathed a sigh of relief and made the same decision. The expert who was observing behind the scenes said she broke all the statistics and surprised him. A similar thing happened in the cheating scenario. This time a young man (whose name I can’t remember but ironically means truth and honesty) spoke up when the cheating began and said, “Oh no! No way!” He was quite defiant and upset by what they were doing. A girl then joined in with him and chose not to cheat as well.
While watching these programs two things became crystal clear. First, we really are sheep! The conclusion with each of the scenarios was that the young people went against their conscience out of peer pressure. They didn’t want to disappoint the one (the paid actor) who was doing the wrong thing. They wanted to just go with the flow and not make waves. They knew better, but like sheep they just followed along. The second thing that stood out to me was the ease at which humans are able to ignore their hearts. You could see the battle raging in many of these young people. They knew they were making a bad decision. Most of them knew in their hearts what they should do. Some of those getting in the car with the drunk driver knew this could cost them their lives. They had even lost family members! BUT the desire to be loved and accepted by those around them out weighed even the threat of death!
Do we think adults are much better? This caused me to see that we are indeed sheep and sheep need a shepherd. If we don’t have a shepherd we’ll just follow the herd. I lived for years doing this inside organized Christianity. I often went against my own heart because I didn’t want to upset the paid actor. (Oops! Did I just write that?) I knew in my heart what was right but I was trained by a system of religious obligation to continually ignore my heart. I was terrified to go against the flow. But what changed? What caused me to suddenly go against the flow and start listening to my heart? I turned my eyes to the shepherd. I heard His voice. I was no longer just a sheep in the herd but was a unique individual who was dearly loved. The truth is, I wasn’t the first one in the room to go against the flow, He was. Like the boy who spoke out against cheating paving the way for the others to freely follow or the girl who boldly chose not to get in the car freed the others to follow their conscience, Jesus stood up first and said, “This is not the way!” Suddenly I was free! The shepherd had spoken and now I was not alone in this. He made it much easier to go against the flow because He did it first.
We are all sheep. But those who follow their hearts are simply those who respond to the Shepherd’s voice.
Listening to your heart is a major theme in the motion picture Jeff’s World we are in the midst of producing.